You may have heard a lot of talk lately about the perils of identity theft. If you are a senior, you may wonder exactly how these people can get your information in the first place. You may even think it is a crime that is occurring exclusively with individuals who use the internet to process payments and do online banking. This is not true. There are many ways that identity thefts can obtain your financial and identifying information. Here are some of the ways and places identity thieves can garner a senior’s personal information:
Many identity thieves get information from their own workplace. Individuals who work with sensitive information-such as processing credit card orders and payments, working with dental and medical records, and other places where your private and personal information might be kept-are one of the places identity theft occurs. Individuals may have access to this information on the job, but they may also bribe someone else to get the information of hack into the records using computers. Individuals may also access your credit report information through their employer’s access or use information gathered on the job to access even more private information.
Other identity thieves may go through your mail or garbage to get financial information and credit card statements. Even credit card offers, new checks, and other bills and statements can have enough information for an identity thief to be able to access your personal identity. Experts suggest shredding or burning these offers and information to make sure that they don’t get into the wrong hands.
There is always the “traditional” way of gathering information by stealing your purse or wallet, or information stolen from your home-this is still a common way that individuals are able to access another’s financial records and personal information.
Believe it or not, many seniors unknowingly “give” thieves their personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the computer. Individuals may pose as legitimate businesses and request your personal information. They may call and say that you are having trouble with your account or try to sell you something. Giving out your personal information-including driver’s license number, social security number, or other details to an unverified person is never a good idea. Seniors seem to be especially susceptible to these identity theft schemes.
As you can see from all of these various ways that identity thieves are able to gather people’s information, the internet is only one possible way. There are plenty of more accessible, every day ways information can be compromised. There are steps a senior can take, however, to help minimize the risk for identity theft. Making sure that you dispose of your mail properly so that information cannot be retrieved is one way. Making sure that you do not share personal information over the phone, via computer, or through the mail is another. You should also make sure that you retrieve your mail promptly if it is delivered in a mailbox, and that your mailbox is located in a public, well-lit, and watched location. If possible, mail should be delivered at your door or front porch. Make sure that if you are out of town, even for a day or two, that your mail is being picked up and securely held for you. If you are contacted by an individual claiming to be a salesperson or company representative and he or she is asking for personal information like your drivers’ license number, social security number, etc. you should be concerned and suspicious. You should never give these out over the phone or at the door.
These are just some of the ways that identity theft can occur. For more information, contact your local (or state) Better Business Bureau or visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft.